The Platonic Form and Alienation: An Analysis from The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

FATMA DORE

Abstract


This paper will examine the concept of the Platonic form and through a critique of Ludwig Feuerbach demonstrate its alienating potential. This examination and critique will be made within the context of a section of the novel The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. The focus of that section is on a life-size portrait belonging to the protagonist of the novel, Hans Castorp. The portrait is of his paternal grandfather, Hans Lorenz Castorp, a principal citizen of Hamburg who had played a key role in the orphaned upbringing of Castorp until his own death. The portrait itself is analogous to a Platonic form. It is described in the novel as being for Castorp the “pure and genuine form” of his grandfather contrasted with which “the everyday” grandfather is “merely subsidiary”. For Plato, the ideal form of anything is its real type whereas what to a direct realist materialist would be a real object is merely for Plato a poor copy of it. Being the inversion of such a materialist perspective, the doctrine of Plato of ideal forms places ultimate reality outside of sense perception and the material world. By using the critique of the materialist Feuerbach, however, it can be shown that the Platonic doctrine is potentially alienating in its inversion. The portrait in The Magic Mountain has a similar affect on Castorp in that it displaces the significance of his actual grandfather in his memory and as such effectively alienates him in his remembrance of him.

References


Mann, Thomas. (1955). The Magic Mountain. (Trans.) H. T. Lowe-Porter. New York: Alfred A. Knopf


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